Cape Town was built on spice and wine, and the city is as robust with flavour today as it was at its founding as a victualling station in the mid-17th century.
Today Cape Town is a global food capital with restaurants specialising in Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese to others serving British, French, German, Austrian, American, South American, Middle-Eastern and, of course, African fare. Leavening the brew is the influence of the fiery colonial cuisine of neighbouring Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, and of the large Portuguese community in the country, some of whom found their way south from Angola, Madeira or Portugal itself. Few in Britain know that Nando’s, the huge peri-peri chicken franchise you’ll find in almost every British town and village, is a South African concern. Peri-peri chicken or prawns are as South African as potjiekos and boerewors.
The boerewors roll is pure South African cuisine – our tastier answer to New York’s hot dogs. At a roadside stand, boerewors (a variety of spicy sausage) is char-grilled over an open-flame then placed into a bun and covered in mustard and tomato sauce. Delicious!
Potjiekos is an Afrikaans tradition of cooking al fresco in a heavy three-legged cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid. Meat or poultry is cooked for many hours with layers of vegetables over mild coals, with rice often included in the mix, moistened by stock and/or wine, and plenty of herbs and spices.
The word braai is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast” and is a social custom in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It originated with the Afrikaner people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. The word vleis is Afrikaans for “meat”.
The word has been adopted by English-speaking South Africans and can be regarded as another word for barbecue, in that it serves as a verb when describing how food is cooked and a noun when describing the cooking equipment, such as a grill. The traditions around a braai can be considerably different from a barbecue, however, even if the method of food preparation is very similar.
South African food is colourful, interesting and alien to most visitors. It also tastes terrific. A well-prepared local meal can be a highlight of your trip to South Africa.